Monte Penumbra – Heirloom of a Sullen Fall (Review)

Monte PenumbraA rich amalgamation of Black Metal and Doom; Monte Penumbra’s début album may be relatively short at only 35 minutes, but it is packed to the hilt with texture and interesting things going on.

Slow, doom-laden Black Metal played with skill and passion; Monte Penumbra know their art and know how to get the most out of their songs. Interesting riffs, atmospheric interludes, tempo changes; this is bleak-yet-Black Metal that hits the spot; sludge hijacked by Black Metal and bent to its will.

The vocals are varied – ranging from chants, screams to powerful almost-singing; a welcome change from the generic.

This is an enjoyable album for those times when you’re in the mood for something a bit more brooding and well-paced, thoughtful and introspective yet still drenched in Black Metal’s distinctive colours.

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Funeral Circle – Funeral Circle (Review)

Funeral CircleFuneral Circle play Epic Doom Metal. This album is all about the songs, the feeling of Doom, and the weighty guitars.

At 51 minutes it is a decent length and every track is really enjoyable. Harking back to an older time of more traditional song structures and Doom inspired themes and feeling, yet with a powerful production and sound that makes it sound contemporary, without ever sounding too polished or stale. Funeral Circle have a sound which is alive and warm, wrapping their arms around you like a comfy blanket. Only it’s a comfy Doom Metal blanket, of course.

The songs are well-crafted and perfectly judged, never outstaying their welcome or straying into pedestrian areas. The musicianship is first-rate and does justice to the songwriting, bringing each track alive. With vocals that are powerful and inspiring, the singer perfectly fits the music with a great range and depth to his voice.

This is traditional-style Doom Metal played with conviction and power. Along with bands like Pallbearer and 40 Watt Sun this is exactly what this genre should sound like in 2013. Strong harmonies, excellent vocals and everything focused on the song. A win.

Sapiency – Tomorrow (Review)

SapiencySapiency play modern melodic Thrash Metal. I don’t listen to a lot of this style of music as there is a huge amount of mediocrity out there – it seems to be that writing okay music in this style is quite easy, but being truly great is rare.

Their style is similar to bands such as Scar Symmetry, In Flames, Soilwork, etc. – the gruff vocals juxtaposed against the clean, huge soaring guitars and keyboards, epic melodies and punchy drums, etc. Although Sapiency don’t hit the heights of the truly great, they are certainly a cut above the mediocre, and dare I say it this is quite an exciting and enjoyable release.

Having more bite to their attack than a lot of the typical In Flames/Soilwork clones, (which they aren’t), certainly works in their favour. The gruff vocals are a bit harsher than the norm, and the clean vocals a bit more powerful. They dwell on the right side of catchy rather than sounding ‘pop’. The guitars are not watered down and actually have some meat to the riffs rather than just being there to accentuate the vocals, which seems to be a usual failing of certain bands in this genre. In fact, Sapiency are less In Flames/Soilwork and more Scar Symmetry/Dark Tranquillity – heavier and less polished, (relatively speaking of course), than their more commercial kin. Some would say ‘more metal’. Here we even have the occasional blastbeat, which is always welcome. Solos too. It’s good that they are not afraid of speed either; it’s too easy for bands in this genre to lose interest across an album as every song has the same mid-paced tempo, speed and feeling.

Albums like this live or die by their songs and Sapiency have these; energy and catchiness, wrapped up and delivered as molten melodic metal. It’s hard not to feel the enthusiasm inherent in these tracks. There is a genuine love of metal on display here and it exhibits itself in every track and imbues them with a vitality that is otherwise missing in so many catchier bands.

I enjoyed Sapiency more than I thought I would; which is a reminder that it’s far to easy to feel jaded and cynical these days and every band should be judged on their individual merits. A class album – if you enjoy melody with your metal then check them out.

Abbotoir – MCMXV (Review)

AbbotoirSometimes music can seem more than just music – sometimes it seems like a force of nature. MCMXV is like that. Only two tracks, but over 50 minutes of music. Heavy, colossal, doom. This is the début album by this Irish doom band. Their first release was an EP (XLI) which whet the appetite nicely and this album follows hot on the heels of that.

Their style of doom is a filthy, dirgy, primal one. Primarily slow, (obviously), but not afraid to mix it up now and again in true sludge fashion. Indeed; both songs have their faster moments, but even these are covered in grime and filth, and the atmosphere steadfastly remains one of decay and neglect, further enhanced by the effects in the background of the primary instruments.

This is an album that will only improve with time. The repetitive nature of some of the dirgy riffs burrows into your subconscious and refuses to leave. A most welcome, if rotten, earworm; loudly insisting that you return for more foetid delights in the dank recesses of the Abbotoir.

With this release Abbotoir have proved that they are not one-(bong)-hit wonders and instead are capable of carving a niche for themselves in the doom scene. And I, for one, hope they continue to do so far some time to come.

Bismuth – The Eternal Marshes (Review)

BismuthThis is a little something for all those who worship at the altar of sloooooow. Almost a UK version of Burning Witch/Khanate; the basic template should be familiar to anyone into this kind of doom, although Bismuth inject enough of  their own personal brand of misery and woe into the music to differentiate it from their peers.

This is a one-track release lasting 16 minutes and every single minute is a hymn to distortion and doom. Bass, drums and tortured screeching.

Slow and agonised; the music drags itself into the darkest corner of your forgotten fears and festers, waiting patiently and growing all of the time. Occasional screams of growing pains punctuate this hidden time bomb of malignancy like something trying to escape, but ultimately realising the futility.

This is doom. This is slow, bass-heavy, doom. There is nothing else.

Weapon – Naga: Daemonum Praeteritum (Review)

WeaponOh this is wonderfully dirty underground Black Metal! Gritty and raw. The kind of sound that can garrotte the unwary listener at 100 yards.

This is a collection of three demos, (Within the Flesh of the Satanist, Violated Hejab and Para Bhakti…Salvation), all remastered by Lars Broddesson of Marduk. The sound is brutal and distorted; filthy and fuzzy. This is the sound of a band expressing themselves with whatever means at their disposal – straight for the jugular.

For the main the vocals are guttural shouts – almost what you’d expect from old-school Death Metal rather than Black Metal, but it suits the style well. There is also some variety in places; from almost-spoken harshness to slightly higher-pitched-but-still-quite-deep; enough to keep the listener interested.

The music is slithering, sharp and surprisingly rhythmic in the drum department on occasion. The riffs are simple and classic for the most part, but they are not afraid to experiment as the needs of the song dictate, with plenty of interest and ideas to be had throughout. The emphasis here is on expressing feelings of darkness and hate and vomiting them forth into the recording, a tone which is captured well.

The sound may be primitive but that shouldn’t put you off – here we have some perfect examples of aggressive underground Black Metal that any true fan of the genre can’t help but appreciate.

Overall I would rate this release very highly indeed. It’s non-generic, interesting and has plenty of feeling and passion. What more could you want?

Infected Society – Get Infected (Review)

Infected SocietyInfected Society play a modern form of grind that nonetheless harks back to a golden age of grindcore where grinding was more than just about speed; swagger and attitude counted for something.

This EP is very short but packs a punch. Four original songs that certainly leave their mark on the listener, and two covers. The original songs are catchy and diverse, and recall Groinchurn at their punky, grinding best. No 20-second-wonders here – each track has thought put into it and feels crusty but fresh, ready for the challenges ahead. As a taster for a full length some time in the future this does its job perfectly.

The two covers are by Napalm Death and Pantera. Wearing their influences on their sleeves, Infected Society pay homage to their heroes with honour.

One of the most noticeable things about this release is the energy levels – this is frantic and frenetic stuff. That’s not to say it’s sloppy of course, not at all; the band are obviously extremely enthused about what they’re playing. This comes through in the music and it’s a joy to hear. This is not tired music-by-numbers – this is fresh and exciting.

Very short but very worthwhile. Seems about time now for an album!